So many statements were made that no one struggled to be heard. That’s not to minimize the value of any of them, but it turned into a cacophony.
Before the game, there was a statement by Iranian striker Karim Ansarifard, in the context of a brutal crackdown in Iran against women protesting their subservience, that his team was playing for all their compatriots.
“It is always an honor to represent our country,” he said. “We play for all the men and women of our country. When I say people from our country, there are no exceptions. Those people include all men and all women.”
It should be noted that none of the members of the Iranian team sang the national anthem before the game. In the stands, Iranian women could be seen crying and waving banners that read: “Woman, life, freedom.” At home they would not see each other at all in a stadium. To complete the set, England kept up their recent habit of taking a knee just before the opening whistle.
In the field, there was no disorder or confusion. All teams in Group B are ranked in the top 20. It is mortal. But between England and Iran that day there was an abyss. England scored six and could have had at least two more. Their football throughout was crisp, busy and well-worked, in contrast to the lackluster performance in six winless games before the tournament.
All goals were taken sharply and became progressively easier as Iran withered. There was a double from Bukayo Saka, goals also from Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham, and when they gave way to the substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish joined. Harry Kane didn’t score, but that was a plus because nothing is more certain than that he will. The tournament is on notice.
Iran’s two counterpoint goals need not unduly worry England. A series of injury interruptions and two lengthy VAR queries dragged this match out endlessly; 25 minutes of added time were played in two periods. Any team could have been lulled. Iran’s second goal came from a penalty that was the last act of the game and could reasonably be described as posthumous. By then, much of the crowd had left. They were making their own statement.
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